the dialogue

The dialogue - 1971

The dialogue went something like this:

The United States is a capitalist and repressive county where wealth and power is contained in the hands of the few and controlled by a few.  These few are variously known as the oligarchy, the ruling class, the military industrial complex, capitalist pigs, etc.  Their class interests shape their values and ideology.  These oppressors, quite naturally, will do whatever is necessary to retain their power.  It is just a law of nature.  They only share power to the extent it serves their interests.  Witness the historically undeniable fact that by their deeds the Native American peoples are almost altho not quite all dead and someone else owns almost all their lands. 

The rulers have enslaved and killed millions, tens of millions, literally tens millions of human beings to provide inexpensive disposable labor for their fiefdoms.  One hundred million people stolen from Africa ... over half of whom died before they got here.  The rulers pay the lowest imaginable wages to the people who work for them so as to maximize their profits.  And to the extent they provide any benefits, freedoms, and kindnesses to their workers and the masses it is only given in order to maintain control and avoid uprisings, defection, and revolution.  Power will not be voluntarily surrendered in this worldview but must be wrested away.  Since power will not be surrendered voluntarily, the only real means of wresting it is by violent confrontation.  Power only understands power.  Organizing is necessary because without a unified base the masses cannot succeed in their struggle to wrest power away from the rulers, but ultimately peace comes out of the barrel of a gun.  And there you have a little summary of the Marxist, Maoist, Franz Fanon type analyses that guided our thinking and occasionally our actions.

If this was so, one rightfully asks, what were you doing on a farm in northern Vermont milking cows, chopping wood, and making maple syrup for untold hours each day?  Being a good question, the following answer would be given.

Liberation and revolution will only be achieved, we would say, when there is a very broad coalition of progressive forces sharing common interests and able to act in concert led by third world people.  This being so, the role of the white American left was limited to organizing white workers, serving the third world leadership, giving aid, support, and comfort to the enemies of the United States, particularly national liberation movements in Vietnam, Nicaragua, South Africa, and Cuba, and defining the terms of the cultural revolution that would accompany the political revolution.  We were big on this last one.  Our notion, spoken over and over again many times, was that we were “living the post revolutionary life style in pre revolutionary times.”  Don’t ask me where we got this stuff, but it became an article of faith and dogma.  And being back on the land as pre-technological agriculturalist was a model we affirmed and gave voice to.

When I was an anthropologist I studied a phenomenon called millenarian movements, or cargo cults.  They were most often seen in Micronesia, although the Arapaho Ghost dance of the American West was also probably one.  The central core belief in cargo cult movements was that the ancestors would return and bring with them the abundance of goods and good times that the suffering people in culture shock longed for.  These cults were thought to emerge from culture shock, from a kind of collective cultural trauma.  I wondered from time to time if our impulse to return to the old ways at Franklin was not also a manifestation of our millenarian impulses.  And altho we affirmed the use of violence, we personally were not generally violent … except to the animals we slaughtered … and occasionally to one another.